We’ve already introduced you to typography enthusiast Silvia Virgillo, both here on Feel Desain, and between the pages of Feel Magazine. She was kind enough to talk to us about her Lettering da Torino project, and the importance of typography.
1. Where did the idea for Lettering da Torino come from?
The idea was born when I came back to Turin after my studies, helped by some experiences and courses which I’d done in Milan, in particular James Clough‘s Biciclettering. I realized that the city that I was born in is rich in really interesting typographical material, which I couldn’t help but notice during a walk in the centre or driving around the outskirts in the car.
I started to photograph signs, inscriptions, place names, and manhole covers, planning trips to different areas of the city in order to collect material in an online archive which would be accessible to everybody, with the aim of protecting them – at least photographically – from the passage of time. That’s how in 2012 the “Lettering da” project officially took off, with a Facebook page dedicated to Turin.
2. How does the process of research, analysis, and digitisation of the letters usually work? Do you work more with readers’ photographs, or is it a job for your team?
The research is done on site, in the city roads, through inspections carried out by the page manager. Readers’ suggestions are gladly accepted, but the photographs are always taken by the page administrators; once archived, the photo is then corrected to ensure that all the pictures have the same frontal viewpoint.
Most of the lettering appears just as a single photograph, while those which are considered particularly interesting are treated in a more in-depth way, through a redesign of the typefaces present and a visual comparison with existing typefaces. This is also the job of the curator, who chooses the letterings for a possible future development of the project: the design of whole new fonts, inspired by letters found in the city.
3. What does creativity mean to you?
I see creativity as the process through which one’s own knowledge and aesthetic preferences merge in a project, visual or physical. It evolves over time based on what is internalised during various educational or professional experiences, or even just observing a situation around us, like an exhibition, or the city in which one lives.
4. Do you have any secrets for becoming more creative?
The only thing that allows us to improve and not cloud our abilities is continuing with a project, challenging ourselves, whether it be for a client or for ourselves.
5. Do you think one city is more creative than others?
I don’t think so, because each person is inspired by very different things, which don’t necessarily correspond. Obviously there are cities which offer more possibilities and services to inspire creativity; usually big, developed cities, but I don’t think it’s possible to agree upon just one list. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve only lived in Turin and Milan: two Italian places which are very different but which both influenced my projects in a complementary way.
6. Is there a sign and/or typeface which is particularly important to you? Why?
Turin is so rich in beautiful signs, it’s hard to choose. I’ll choose one which I’m very attached to, regardless of its aesthetic or historical value: the “Articoli religiosi” sign, in Via Saluzzo. It’s written in a nice sans serif condensed, with shadowed letters. For many years, I passed in front of it in the morning on my way to the studio where I worked. It was the first photo taken for Lettering da Torino.
7. Do you think the creation of promotional items with the best city signs can help make the public aware of the importance of lettering and typography in everyday life?
The aim is mainly to draw attention to something which represents the city but which many people never stop to look at. It’s curious to see people watching me photographing a sign and looking at me with astonishment, often not understanding what I’m really photographing; it’s very rare to find someone who stops to observe them.
I hope that the project can put an emphasis on this aspect of Turin, something which is very present and respected, compared to other cities; the promotional items help to enhance the photographic collection and are a tangible object for people to keep and use. In particular, the bookmarks are each dedicated to a particular typeface and on the back have the addresses of some of the signs which use these characters.
8. Did you expect this success?
I hoped that the project would be appreciated, and I’m pleased that it’s slowly spreading even outside of the city. I’m always amazed when I meet strangers who follow Lettering da Torino and compliment the work done until now. Interest in the project is growing and I hope to soon be able to develop all of its potential, also thanks to the help of the curators I chose to continue the project in other Italian cities who are passionately going ahead in Milan, Matera, Genoa, Venice, and Rome.
Finally, do you have a message for Feel Desain readers?